Demitri’s Feast – Richmond – Saturday 29 April 2017 – Dinner

Feta, honey and figs
Salmon, fennel and celeriac

Transformations don’t always work. There was a famous one in Sydney very recently where Rockpool turned into Eleven Bridge and closed in the same breath. Having been a customer here at Demitri’s Feast for a number of years, I know why this significant transformation will work.

There is more than a couple of reasons, but the two most significant are custom, and experience. Demitri himself has many terrifically loyal customers and I find it impossible to know whether they were friends through the old cafe, or independently. After 20 years of operating cafes, he decided a change was needed and turned Demitri’s Feast from a daytime cafe, to a late morning to late night mezze bar. Ask anyone in hospitality and deciding to go back to working nights is not a decision taken lightly.

Greek salad

The cafe naturally had to be fully renovated to be true to the new formula. The Richmond premiership posters are gone, along with the classic cafe counter, and bright tones. Now there is a tasteful bar, featuring tanned wood. There is more seating inside, using stools to make best use of the smaller space. Outside has been updated too, but keeps the same feel, though I have chosen to sit inside both times I’ve dined here.

Calamari

Over those couple of times, both alone, and with Catherine too, every dish I’ve tried has been good. There are selections of both smaller and larger share plates. Of the smaller plates, the broadbean keftedes stand out as both delicious and surprising. Demitri himself recommended them and he was right. They are full of flavour, the broadbeans obviously enhanced with a variety of spices. A combination of feta, honey and figs, is generous. Initially it looks like a lot of feta, but we seemed to keep coming back for more. More intricate is the salmon, fennel and celeriac offering, which pays attention to the subtlety of the salmon, enhancing it with a scattering of fennel.

Chicken skewers

On our way to the more substantial offerings, there is a Greek salad that is exactly the way it should be. Tradition dictating its make up, and it is particularly pleasing to see no lettuce being used as a filler. The calamari is a good size, plenty of golden, briefly fried pieces. The chicken skewers are given a good dose of spice, and are cooked beautifully over a flame. They are a highlight from the larger plates. So are the lamb cutlets, which find the right level of cooking, and again are oozing in flavour.

Lamb cutlets

Demitri’s is offering a collection of simply cooked meats, done well, and a bunch of smaller dishes that show a bit more subtlety and technique. This formula works, and this mezze bar is not looking to change it. There is a well constructed, reasonably diverse list of wine and beer, including a lager that Demitri’s brews themselves. There is no particular zone for each of the floorstaff so you see them all a number of times. Coordination is not so important as the dishes arrive in a dispersed fashion and you are never long without a drink.

Greek salad

The only pain point, and I use this literally, is for people who are not tall using the stools. There might need to be a rethink on them as shorter types like Catherine and I were in a bit of discomfort after the first 45 minutes. It is an easy fix by dining outside, but I do like the atmosphere of being near the bar.

Broadbean keftedes

It is normally a risk to change up a good formula, and let go of the amazing margins on coffee. In this case I am sure it will be a success. Demitri’s Feast is offering a great range of mezze and drinks, with a warmth of hospitality. It is a place where you can go regularly without breaking your budget too.

Demitri's Feast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brika – Perth – Wednesday 30 December 2015 – Dinner

IMG_4502There is definitely something comforting about Greek food. Like most cultures, food plays an important role in everyday life, with a style of dining that easily evokes convivial memories from places like Santorini, through to places far closer to home.

The script at Brika casts the Greek style beautifully as a first impression. Open air, making use of the famous Perth weather, with lots of dishes on each table, being shared by large groups of families and friends. Tonight we have a table of eight celebrating a friends’ birthday.

Leaving ourselves in the hands of our host, we were happy with the variety and amount of everything being ordered. If you have an idea of what the table loves, likes and dislikes, it appears to be a much better idea to order from the menu, rather than taking the banquet option.
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We tried a lot of dishes during the evening, starting with some pita and hummus, zucchini fritters, wood fired sausage and the village salad. From the more substantial dishes we tried the chargrilled octopus, swordfish skewers, pork belly and lamb; and to finish we had the Greek donuts, and baklava with halva ice cream.

Everything we ate was good, or much better. The pork belly was a highlight as it was perfectly cooked, and the honey glaze added to the flavour without overwhelming. The lamb was equally impressive. My dish of the night was the halva ice cream and baklava combination, showing the kitchen has some innovative flair.
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While the more substantial dishes and dessert were the highlights, the starters were not merely dishes to whet the appetite, though they were not noticeable different to what other Greek restaurants offer.

Looking around at a full restaurant both inside and out, there is huge enthusiasm for what Brika is providing. More than that, the leg work to get the space looking attractive, using the outdoors to full effect, is something that oozes confidence in the eventual end product. Perhaps that is why we finished with a bottle of ouzo to cheers the birthday girl!

Brika Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oleana – Cambridge, Boston – Monday 20 October 2014 – Dinner

Duck shish

Duck shish

After a day of seeing the sights Boston has to offer, we were back around Harvard to try a Mediterranean restaurant that had been recommended to us by a colleague who worked in Boston for a year. On approach it was hard to spot, reminding me in a sense of the last time we ate near a famous US College at Chez Panisse.

Oleana has a neighborhood feel and once you are inside that comfort extends to the warmth of the room, both in literal and figurative terms. We were seated at a table in the main dining room and our waitperson explained the sharing nature of the menu, recommending a quantity of four to six dishes. From the start to the finish service was articulate and attentive with a manner that sat well with the convivial nature of the restaurant.

Apple Fatoush

Apple Fatoush

The first dish we shared set the scene for some terrific combinations of Mediterranean flavours, focussing on ingredients most seen in Greece. The Apple Fotoush salad was beautifully dressed with a burst of pomegranate in most mouthfuls. The ingredients including cos (Romaine) and beets were all cut nice and small to make it possible to combine the ingredients which were all fresh and vibrant, with a crunch from the crisp pita.

Moussaka

Moussaka

Next came the moussaka which had several points of difference to the norm. The eggplant layering the bottom presented as babaganoush, and crisp brussel sprouts topping the other ingredients. Fried mussels rounded out our smaller plates. They were nicely cooked, but lacked the zing of the other starters. The Turkish tarator sauce was delicious though.

Fried mussels

Fried mussels

In preparation for dessert we only shared one larger plate which was the duck shish with figs, beets, smoked wheat pilav and walnuts. It was a terrific amount of food and huge in flavour. Whilst contemporary, there was the inevitable thought back to places like Santorini, though unfortunately I didn’t see any duck going around the Caldera!

Saffron zoulbia, sekel pear, pomegranate sorbet and pistachios

Saffron zoulbia, sekel pear, pomegranate sorbet and pistachios

After such a good savoury experience we had to try dessert and one each for that matter. Catherine chose best with the “Saffron Zoulbia, Sekel Pear, Pomegranate Sorbet & Pistachios” which was a delicious combination of Middle Eastern flavours. My almond cremolata, chocolate panino and cocoa nib granola was restrained, with the almond cremolata a little dull, but the technique behind the pastry was executed with skill and my menu envy negated a little.

Almond Cremolata

Almond Cremolata

Full on a Monday night, with several larger groups, you could tell this is a constantly customed venue. As the wine from a good list flowed, the atmosphere grew, and everyone was satisfied and happy. Oleana is a great restaurant in a city reputed for its food and the chefs are dishing up innovative Meditteranean cuisine that speaks of its origins.

Oleana on Urbanspoon

Jimmy Grants – Fitzroy – Thursday 3 July 2014 – Dinner

The Bonegilla and Hellenic Slaw

The Bonegilla and Hellenic Slaw

What a business! In one of the most competitive dining areas in Australia, Jimmy Grants has a line out the door on a frosty Thursday night! The formula for success seems so obvious and it often is when it is so overwhelming.

There is something comforting about a souva. For years it was the equivalent of any other fast food aiding and abetting a drinker. Now it is the start of the night, taking me back to Santorini and a great souva bar called Obelisk. It is like I woke up one day and all of a sudden someone had revealed that traditional Greek is actually possible in Melbourne!

It is impossible not to compare to Gazi. In brief, Gazi is better. Hence the price point is lower and there is a more casual, in an out, vibe. However, I would not describe Jimmy Grants as a poorer cousin.

My “the Bonegilla” souva was eagerly anticipated and literally gobbled up in minutes. It is a good size, filled with a combination of chicken and melt-in-the-mouth lamb with mustard aioli, onions and parsley, but the stars after the lamb are the pita which is perfect and the golden seasoned chips. Catherine’s Nonna Maria is the same but just with chicken. I found the Hellenic slaw great for a few mouthfuls, but the chefs were too heavy handed with the mayo which made the next few mouthfuls more than enough.

For a bit more of a group there is slow roasted lamb and chicken from the spit at reasonable prices. Seating, due to the popularity of this place, is at a premium but it is actually quite a reasonable space. You order from the bar, but only once you have a table (unless taking away), and there are a good selection of Greek beers to wash down the souva.

For dessert, we moved around the corner for ice cream at Messina Gelato which is a must try!

Jimmy Grants is also in the CBD and there is a pop up at 80 Collins Street along with Kong and St Ali. It feels much more akin to sister restaurants than your classic chain and is producing souva that I am addicted to!

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon